Juan Quevedo

Juan’s Essay

Close your eyes and imagine yourself a homeless father, moving from one place to
another every six months. Imagine how you would feel, alone with no friends or family to ask
for help. You–in this imaginary world–are “undocumented” to people, and no matter how much
your try, no one is reaching out to help you. Instead, the United States government is enacting
laws designed to separate you from your wife and six children. Now open your eyes and realize
that your imagination is the reality of my father. My father was removed from the United States
for committing a misdemeanor that Congress redefined in 1996 as an “aggravated felony” for
immigration purposes. My father died in Mexico shortly after his removal. Therefore, obtaining
a law degree will allow me to achieve my goal of becoming a public servant–a drum major for
justice–with a particular focus on the intersection of immigration and criminal law.

Despite the large number of noncitizens removed, federal courts have held that it is not
the government’s role to remove every noncitizen. For example, in Kang v. United States, the
court noted that the government’s role is to “seek justice rather than victory.” The problem,
therefore, is that the government views as a victory a denial of relief accompanied by a removal
order; in other words, a “guilty” verdict.

Further, numerous courts of appeals have held that “family unification is one the highest
goals of American immigration law [and policy].” For example, in Mufti v. Gonzalez, the
United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit noted that “family unification [is] the
cornerstone of American immigration law and policy.”

The federal government, however, has unreasonably turned the criminal justice system
into an immigration removal system by shifting to a system of universal and automated screening
such that every single person arrested by a local law enforcement official anywhere in the
country is screened by the federal government for immigration status and removal eligibility.

Residing in America is a privilege; a privilege extended to some, and not to others.
Accordingly, Congress originally did not extend the privilege to noncitizens convicted of three
crimes: murder, illicit trafficking in firearms, and drug trafficking. The list, however, now
includes twenty-eight offenses. We now have a system that is unreasonable because it removes
noncitizens that pose no danger to American society. Congress has strayed so far from the
original intent of the U.S. removal system, that the government removes people that have lived in
the United States most of their lives, have U.S. citizen family members, but lack a way to
become legal residents or citizens of the United States.

Implicit in the record-number of removals of noncitizens is the belief that noncitizens
commit more crimes than native-born people. This belief is not new; first [it was the] Irish and
Chinese immigrants, then Italians and others from southern and eastern Europe, and today
Mexicans and others from Latin America. However, the belief that noncitizens commit more
crimes than native-born citizens is erroneous, as “academic research finds that immigrants are no
more prone (and may be less prone) to engage in crime than the native born.” Yet, Congress
cranked up the machine designed to keep the logs (“noncitizens”) rushing along the flumes as
friction-free as possible while they hurtle toward the big blade that is waiting for them at the
sawmill (“immigration courts”).

In conclusion, I will leave a mark on the legal profession by striving to further
understand, explain and perhaps to influence the complex and often convoluted world of
immigration and criminal law with direction and vigor. I will bring the lessons I have learned,
the compassion he has sought, and the tenacity that drives me into my legal career to the
American Bar.